‘Hanging the potatoes out to dry’ was my first glimpse of the capability and creativity of George Calombaris’s sensational food.
Superstar chef and owner of seven fabulous Melbourne restaurants, George is nuts about his Greek heritage and food, evident by his unique style.
When George isn’t cooking or judging Australia’s MasterChef he’s watching football, his other great passion. So after the Saturday night game between the Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory, George cooked a special lunch for a small group of people on Waiheke Island, showcasing some dishes from his top end restaurant, The Press Club.
Mike and Andrea Grey, also football fanatics, kindly opened their home on the island so we could not only eat the finest food prepared by George, but also enjoy one of New Zealand’s most outstanding views.
Variations of a potato chip where meticulously attached to a small clothes line with tiny wooden pegs. George introduced the dish with a hint of nostalgia, remembering swinging on his mother’s clothes lines as she yelled at him to get off.
The potato chips included a salt and vinegar chip, cheese and chives and a sweet potato. Slurping champagne, it was a sensational opener of what was to come.
Not only is George fastidious about the freshness of his ingredients but he uses items I’d never tasted or heard. The caper leaves, part of the next course, were prepared in South Australia and provided the most delicate accompaniment to the softest halloumi cheese, new seasons peeled cherry tomatoes and a finely crafted butter and Marmite biscuit.
Simon and Tom, two of George’s Press Club chefs had battled their way through New Zealand customs two days before, with all the ingredients and were only knocked back on one count.
As well as the fine Aussie produce we were treated to some of New Zealand’s green lip mussels. On top of the seafood medley, was a mound of aerated mashed potato, smoother than silk.
Talking with George he humbly likened his brand to that of BMW saying, “From a seven series BMW to a one series there is something for everyone, just as there is in my restaurants, from Jimmy Grants souvas (souvlakis) right up to The Press Club.”
George’s food kept coming, culminating with beef cooked for 72 hours at 50 degrees. Soft and flavoursome, nothing had been taken from the meat with the structure and tenderness intact.
I’m planning a trip to Melbourne with the sole purpose of eating at George’s restaurants, but before I get there I’m going to start experimenting from George’s latest book.